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Complements of Don Rackey, USA Mens Gymnastics traveling athletic trainer.

Flexibility should not be overlooked because increased flexibility can decrease the risk of injury and enhance your athletic performance. Although few people get excited about stretching, to increase flexibility they should know that unlike many areas of fitness, a small commitment to stretching can produce big dividends. Following are a few basic principals about proper stretching to improve flexibility.

Static stretches held for 20-30 seconds, with moderate tension, is the key to proper stretching.
The stretch tension must be held constant for the muscle to relax. The body will initially resist any stretching, so the stretch must be held long enough for the body’s initial defenses to relax and then allow the tissues to stretch properly. 20-30 seconds is the accepted minimum amount of time to allow this to happen. The amount of tension you apply during the stretch should not be painful. You should feel tension within the muscle but stretching is not meant to hurt. On the contrary, stretching should be very relaxing.

Stretching should become a daily habit.
Recent studies show that just one good stretch a day can produce increased flexibility. The study examined different stretching protocols that had subjects performing multiple stretches during multiple stretching sets per day. Results showed one good 30 second stretch a day yielded increased flexibility and that multiple stretches were not significantly better in improving flexibility.

The best time to stretch is when the muscles are warm.
It’s best to begin with a few minutes of light exercise and then stretch the then-warmed muscles before beginning the more intense part of the workout. Applying heat to muscles is also effective if formal exercise is not going to be performed. Stretching should always be done following exercise to take advantage of the warm muscles as well as decreasing muscle soreness by increasing circulation to the fatigued muscles. Greater flexibility will be maintained if the tissues are stretched while they are warm and then held in a stretched position as the muscles and tendons cool down. Steady breathing, in and out, should also be maintained as one holds the stretch.

Stretching to increase flexibility should not be neglected.
A little stretching can go a long way to enhance your overall fitness.